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Thursday December 20 8:17 PM ET

FBI Declines to Release Hijack Flight Cockpit Tape

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The FBI has turned down family requests that it release the cockpit voice recording from an airliner hijacked on Sept. 11 that crashed in a Pennsylvania field, saying the horror captured on the tape would do little to assuage their grief.

"(FBI) Director (Robert) Mueller has personally listened to the recording from the hijacked flight and advised that the FBI will not be releasing the tape at this time," FBI spokesman John Collingwood said in a letter to U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher that the congresswoman's office released on Thursday.

"While we empathize with the grieving families, we do not believe that the horror captured on the cockpit voice recording will console them in any way," Collingwood said.

click for enlargementTauscher, a California Democrat, had written to the FBI on behalf of Deena Burnett, whose husband Thomas was among those aboard the plane when it was hijacked on Sept. 11.

Unlike three other passenger jets hijacked that day that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, United Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, apparently brought down amid a passenger revolt against the hijackers.

Burnett and several other relatives of Flight 93 passengers have asked the government to release the cockpit voice recorder, saying they hoped it would reveal what really happened during the final minutes before the plane crashed, killing all 45 people aboard.

The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to release even an edited transcript of Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder, saying that it is evidence in a criminal investigation.

The FBI's Collingwood repeated that the tape was being held as evidence, and said Mueller believed that the families would gain nothing from listening to the tape.

"While we share your interest in providing Mrs. Burnett with peace of mind, we do not believe that any of the victim's families would find comfort in the recording," Collingwood said. "Furthermore, the voices are, for the most part, indistinguishable."

A number of other recordings, made by other aircraft and air traffic control, have surfaced that appear to support the belief that passengers clashed with the hijackers in the final minutes of the flight.

Collingwood said that while the FBI would not accede to the families' request for the tape, "we hope that they will take comfort in knowing that all of America embraces the passengers and flight crew of Flight 93 as heroes."

Related item on this website:

Evidence hardens that United flight 93 was shot down
Ron Jacobson argues that 'primary target' does not necessarily indicate military activity | Don Pauly agrees | so does David Mirfin | and Warren Peterson urges us to drop the conspiracy theory on Flight 93
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